Despite finishing with a losing record and last in the AFC North division for the first time since 2015, the Baltimore Ravens are poised for a bounce-back season in 2022 for a multitude of reasons. Chief among them is the fact that they will be getting a wave of playmakers and Pro Bowlers back from injury and their strength of schedule or rather the lack thereof.
In his second annual way way too early DVOA projections, Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders claims the Ravens possess the easiest projected schedule. He first had to adjust his 2021 ratings to take into account games where teams sat starters or had COVID issues or used backup quarterbacks.
He then proceeded to use an equation to project 2022’s DVOA based solely on 2021’s DVOA and “the usual regression to the mean”. While he stated that defense and special teams regress to the mean stronger than offense does, the Ravens have historically been among the tops in the league in both phases of the game prior to and during the Lamar Jackson era. Last year was an outlier for the defense but he factored that adjustment as well.
“They play the AFC East and NFC South, plus Denver, Jacksonville, and the New York Giants,” wrote Schatz. “I slightly improved the Baltimore defense based on all the injuries they suffered in 2021.”
He also made adjustments based on anticipated roster change and development. The Ravens are among the league’s best and building a consistently contending team via the draft, trades, and free agency.
Returning from injury in 2022 will be their MVP-winning quarterback, All-Pro cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters, the dynamic running back duo of J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards, All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley just to name a few.
While the combined 2021 records of the AFC East and NFC South are both a respectable 34-34, each division features teams with huge question marks at quarterback or are undergoing some sort of a reset/rebuild. The Broncos, Jaguars, and Giants only won 14 games between them in 2021 and combined for 37 losses.
Unless one of their opponents is slotted to host an international game, the Ravens will also have a very favorable schedule in terms of the distance they will have to travel. They won’t even travel west of the Mississippi River when they play the Saints in New Orleans and don’t have the play on the west coast.